The need for a national airline


Like most of you, I was delighted when I heard the news that the Ghanaian government’s pushback against British airways’ (BA) intention to move Accra-London flights to Gatwick airport had been successful. I felt immense pride that my government had not defaulted to its agreeable, model former colony stereotype, but had borrowed a leaf from our Nigerian brothers’ playbook and fought fire with fire.

On social media, it was even rumored that the government had told BA that a move to Gatwick, approximately 100 miles away, from the more prestigious and central Heathrow airport would prompt a move for the BA flight to land, not in the capital Accra, but in Kumasi, which is also approximately 100 miles away from Accra (context: although just 100 miles, this equates to a 45-minute flight or a four-hour road journey back to the capital Accra).

This news came over Independence Day weekend and whilst many Ghanaians were bemoaning over the resumption of power outages and were seriously considering whether independence had been worth it, we couldn’t help rejoicing in the fact that our government was standing up for us.

I, like many of you, did not read the fine print, that this halt in the move to Gatwick was only until October 2021 and thus, unlike my detail oriented and meticulous husband, I failed to ask the question “what happens after October 2021?”. Well, my husband did, and he went further to check Accra – London ticket prices before and after October 2021.

The results of this query, US$3000 for an economy class return ticket before October 2021 and US$600 after October 2021. Ei! BA is asking Ghanaians to put their money where their pride is! So over Independence Day weekend, as Ghanaians and other Africans were lauding the Ghanaian government over the strength of its backbone, our former colonial masters were drinking tea and smiling smugly to themselves because they knew that once people start booking tickets and realize the price difference, not one peep of protest will be heard when on November 1, 2021 the flight from Accra to London lands in Gatwick.

It must be noted that following Independence Day weekend, ticket prices have come down to similar levels both pre and post October 2021. However, flights after October 2021 are still slated to land at Gatwick.

This entire emotional roller coaster underscores the need for Ghana to have its own national airline, one that it’s citizens will be proud to fly with. As a country that touts its position as the gateway to Africa, it is shameful that it boasts of no national airline.

There have been multiple attempts by the government, both previous governments and the current government, to put one in place after the failure of Ghana Airways, the poster child of graft, corruption and entitlement by government officials. The latest attempt is a partnership with EgyptAir. Yes, you read correctly, EgyptAir.

In December 2019, the Wall Street Journal published an expose on the fatal May 2016 crash of an EgyptAir flight on its way from Paris to Cairo in May 2016, killing all 66 people aboard. According to the article, “a French judicial probe has alleged that maintenance and safety lapses by EgyptAir left the plane unsafe to fly in the days before it crashed, according to confidential documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

A leak of oxygen in the cockpit preceded a fire that likely disabled the plane, according to an expert report circulated this month, contradicting Egypt’s claim that a terrorist act brought down the aircraft.

The plane registered serious mechanical errors on its final five flights, according to automated messages sent by the plane. EgyptAir pilots and the airline’s technical center in Cairo largely ignored those errors, according to the documents.

Investigators are also questioning whether the EgyptAir technician who inspected the plane in Paris was qualified to service aircraft in Europe. Before leaving Cairo for Paris on its penultimate flight, “the plane should have been checked during its four previous flights, and should not have left Cairo after the appearance of repeated faults that were not reported by successive teams,” according to one of the documents, an earlier expert report from 2018.”

The article is troubling as aside from the safety issues, EgyptAir tried to cover up the reasons for the crash. “Six months after the crash, Egyptian authorities said they found traces of TNT on the bodies and opened a criminal probe. French investigators doubted that claim, saying the bodies were in seawater for several weeks, which would have dissolved traces of such explosives. When French victims’ bodies were returned to France, investigators found no traces of TNT.”

As a Ghanaian who has flown on Egypt Air just once and vowed never to do so again (the only flight I have been on where there was no safety briefing before takeoff, and how would there be when the pilot took off with passengers having barely enough time to fasten their seatbelts), should the national airline be run by EgyptAir, I and I’m sure most of you as well, will refuse to throw off the shackles of colonialism and will willingly fly with our “former” colonial masters even if they decide to move us from Gatwick to any one of the provincial airports that litter the English countryside.

>>>The writer is a finance professional with over 11 years of experience spanning North America, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa. She is a proud Ghanaian who is passionate about the development of the country, and seeks to contribute her efforts in making the promise of Ghana a reality.

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